Harvick Accepts IROC Invitation

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IROC officials offered Tropicana 400 and 2001 NASCAR Busch Series champion Kevin Harvick the coveted invitation to the 2002 IROC series. Harvick, who is in Daytona testing his Winston Cup car, immediately accepted and will begin testing this week in a 2002 Pontiac Firebird. Harvick, a two-time winner in Winston Cup competition and the winner of five NASCAR Busch Series races in 2001 will be competing in his first True Value IROC.

The True Value International Race of Champions began on-track preparations for the 2002 season today at Daytona International Speedway. The twenty-sixth edition of the series, which will begin its four race season at the legendary speedway on February 15, is heavy into its preseason testing program.

Returning to the 2000 aerodynamic package by removing the roof blade and reconfiguring the rear spoiler area to more closely adhere to the recent NASCAR mandate for Winston Cup cars, long-time test drivers Dave Marcis, and Jim Sauter are leading the driver corps so that each of the twelve race cars are equally prepared and competitive come race day.

Also on the test schedule is the larger, Demon carburetor, first used at Indianapolis last year, with hopes that by adding 30-horsepower even more will be required of the driver by giving him an extra tool to work with in the ultra-competitive all-star series.

Scheduled to arrive on Tuesday will be 2001 Indy Racing League champion Sam Hornish Jr. and fellow IRL competitor Scott Sharp. Hornish will be preparing for his first season while Sharp will be getting reacquainted with the cars as he competed in 1994. Joining the IRL contingent will be 2001 Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves. The affable Brazillian captured the hearts of racing fans worldwide with his fence climbing victory celebration following his 500 win. Castroneves is eligible for True Value IROC competition in 2002 and will be testing the cars for the first time.

Tuesday, November 13 -- Pre-season testing for the 2002 edition of the True Value International Race of Champions continued for a second day at Daytona International Speedway Tuesday.

Turning laps today were 2001 IRL champion Sam Hornish, 1996 IRL co-champion Scott Sharp and 2001 Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves. The day began with heavy rain in the morning that cleared out and testing began in earnest at 1:00pm.

Current Indy Racing League champion Sam Hornish Jr. took to the track today for the first time in a stock car and ran two 40 lap stints or the equivalent of two races. Hornish, who has competed at the speedway before in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, was taking to the 2.5 mile NASCAR oval for the first time.

"It was pretty exciting today," commented Hornish Jr. "I had a lot of fun being out there in a three or four car pack. Learning where the car needs to be and the biggest thing for me right now is learning the draft and where I have to be on the track, cause there's so much other stuff around me than I'm used to, you've got rollbars and whatnot, so, it's just gonna take some getting used to.

"I'm really having a good time with Dave Marcis and Jim Sauter. They're very informative, anything you need to know they'll tell you, they're trying to help me out as much as they can. Maybe tomorrow I can be better at drafting and learning more about what I need to be doing out on the track."

Scott Sharp who competed in the series in 1994 got two familiarization runs in this afternoon totalling 75 laps. When asked if he needed to learn this all over again he commented, "It's like I've never done it before. I certainly don't remember much about seven years ago. I'm just learning the whole process over again. Just to get your whole mind thinking about the areas you need to pay attention to. Think what you need to ask Jim (Sauter) and Dave (Marcis) about. And today, getting a chance to work with Helio (Castroneves) and Sam (Hornish) out there is invaluable. The cars have really changed alot too. It was a different chassis with a rear steer configuration, now they're front steer cars, they're alot different and I haven't been in a stock car for seven years now."

"Today, I got my comfort level back," said Sharp. "I got to where I'm running easily, in the right groove, close to people, working on my timing for drafting and it got me back to square one. So, I can really start dancing with it tomorrow and any other time I'm in the car."

Helio Castroneves is elligible for the 2002 series because of his 2001 Indianapolis 500 victory. His participation is not yet confirmed and he tested today to familiarize himself with stock cars and to take the opportunity to drive the high-banks of Daytona.

"I had so much fun, said Castroneves. "I really want to thank Jim (Sauter) and Dave (Marcis). They did a great job teaching us what to do. It was fantastic, and alot of fun. These cars are definitely completely different from our car, the open wheel car. Drafting a lot. Basically here drafting is everything. Getting to know the track, knowing the different grooves and different tricks on different parts of the track, all of this is so important. And learning about control, you have so much more play in the steering wheel, and the car moves around so much, and we're not used to any movement like that in our car. I mean I just really had a lotta, lotta, lotta fun. I 've gained today, a lot of respect for the guys in NASCAR.

Testing will continue for one more day on Wednesday, weather permitting, with Scott Sharp and Sam Hornish Jr. continuing their education with professors Dave Marcis and Jim Sauter.

Confirmed drivers for the 2002 IROC Series include: Kevin Harvick, Sam Hornish Jr., Buddy Lazier and Scott Sharpe. The additional nine drivers are scheduled to be announced in the next couple of weeks.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2001

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